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Latin American Program in the News: Assange Asylum Wins Correa Anti-U.S. Cachet As Trade To Suffer

Cindy Arnson

Ecuadorian President Correa’s decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange is bringing his country’s relationship with the U.S. (its top trading partner) to a new low.

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Ecuador President Rafael Correa is emerging from the shadow of Venezuelan mentor Hugo Chavez as his decision to grant asylum to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange plunges relations with the U.S. to new lows.

While such a tactic may boost his chances of re-election in February, the political gain may spell economic loss for Ecuador, as harboring Assange sparks reprisals from the South American nation’s top trade partner, said Cynthia Arnson, Latin America program director at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Ecuador’s economy, about the size of Nebraska’s, benefitted from $1.7 billion in duty-free exports to the U.S. last year under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. Protecting Assange, who published classified U.S. military cables over the internet, is the latest in a series of conflicts with the U.S., including ties with Iran, which top U.S. lawmakers say justify re-imposing tariffs when the trade preferences expire in July.

“This latest move completely undermines the relationship with the U.S. and virtually guarantees that Ecuador will be removed from the Andean trade preference benefits,” Arnson said in a phone interview from Washington.

A State Department official in Washington, who declined to be named, citing agency policy, said the U.S. relationship with the upper levels of Ecuador’s government is very difficult. The renewal of the trade deal is a Congressional decision, he said.

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About the Author

Cindy Arnson

Cynthia J. Arnson

Director, Latin American Program
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Latin American Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more